A few months ago I included a throw-away comment that clients often determine what the key evaluation questions are going to be before hiring an evaluator. Well, a client took me at my word and asked me and a colleague to help them design, and then deliver an evaluation!
Hooray! At last!
The design process is fantastic! As you know I work in a very participatory way and use participation as a way to engage all the team members in the evaluation design (and in this case also the grant officer from the funder). Using two workshops over one and a half days we worked with the client to get from understanding the context that the intervention was responding to, right the way down to methods and tools, by way of stakeholders, values, criteria, etc.
There was complete engagement with the team, made all the more easy thanks to the open and accountable organisational culture that the senior team had worked so hard to create. The evaluation that we designed has not only kept the stakeholders, including the beneficiaries, front and centre, but it has ensured that everyone feels that they have a stake in the evaluation and understand the process of evaluation better.
The evaluation itself is still ongoing and we have been able to maintain our independence despite such a participatory and engaged design process (in fact, probably because of it really!).
The client has been unusually open with us about when things have gone wrong, how they fix things, what they really want to do and how this intervention fits into their overall plan. This has enabled us to work in a collaborative manner, more as a critical friend who can help to identify things that are going well and things that are not going so well and work to identify why some activities are more successful than others and how to replicate that success in areas that are struggling.
This evaluation feels more like a privilege and less like work, and isn’t that the objective we’re all wanting to achieve?